Best Things To Do in Sicily
Sicily is big, with a nearly endless list of things to do. Some of the island's top amusements are its beaches, of course. Then there are the curious ruins – the Valley of the Temples and the Greek Theatre of Taormina, among others. Experiencing the magnificence of Mount Etna, an active volcano, is another top activity. Eating – everything from arancini to seafood – is another worthy venture. Nightlife ranges from eating your way through the Palermo street markets to live performances at Italy's largest opera house, Teatro Massimo.
Updated November 27, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in SicilyBeaches, Recreation, Sightseeing, ToursTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Recreation, Sightseeing, ToursTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
There are many lovely islands off the coast of Sicily, and the hardest part may be choosing which ones to see. A popular choice is the Aeolian Islands, located near Messina and composed of seven main islands, which were created by active volcanoes. There you will find incredible sites like a Greek acropolis, a Norman cathedral, beautiful beaches, volcanic vents and even lava running into the sea.
Past visitors recommended visiting Stromboli volcano (seeing it at night when erupting is extra spectacular), the Museo Archeologico Regionale Eoliano on Lipari, the Scalata al Cratere on Isola Vulcano and Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani on Lipari, as well.
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Located on the island's east coast, Mount Etna is perhaps Sicily's best-known geological feature encompassing nearly 48,000 acres within Etna National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the highest volcano in Europe known for its frequent activity (it's erupted as recently as spring 2019), Mount Etna hosts hikers in the summer months and skiers during the winter. It is a great stop for nature lovers. In addition to the volcano itself, there are several interesting geological features like caves, grottos and even a glacier. The Etna Park Visitor Center offers naturalist-guided tours that depart from the center.
Visitors recommend taking the Circumetnea Railway nearly 130-mile ride around the volcano, but advise you may have to pay to park and suggest bringing layers of clothes for changing temperatures. You can also opt for a cable car operated by Funivia Dell'Etna followed by a bus ride to reach the upper crater area of the volcano. The south area with cable car access, Rifugio Sapienza, offers free parking. You can also hike at any point, but certain elevations require you to have a guide.
- #3View all Photos#3 in SicilyEntertainment and Nightlife, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
History buffs will want to visit this ancient Greek theater, overlooking the Ionian Sea. Built in the third century B.C., the theater could hold thousands of people attending ancient Greek performances and later gladiatorial games. The structure is built out of rock and is designed so attendees could hear well from any part of the theater. Today, it hosts modern concerts and events.
Past visitors said this is a must-see attraction and that the views of the coast and Mount Etna are incredible. They recommended visiting in the morning to avoid crowds.
- #4View all Photos#4 in SicilyMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The largest archeological area in Europe at about 670 acres, this site was once home to one of the largest Greek colonies on the island, dating to 600 B.C. Today, visitors can tour the ruins of seven Doric temples, as well as the necropolis and caves. There are different hiking routes to see the various structures that range from about a quarter-mile to about 3 ½ miles.
Recent visitors said the site does require a lot of walking on uneven ground, and they recommended hiring a guide to fully explain the history of the area.
- #5View all Photos#5 in SicilyChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Monreale's cathedral, built by William II, dates to 1172 and is now part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage Site that also encompasses the Royal Palace and the Palermo Cathedral, among other sites. Designed by Islamic architects, the cathedral's walls are filled with gilded mosaics depicting Old Testament events, the life of Jesus Christ and the life of the apostles. There's also a Benedictine cloister on site with a courtyard and garden built during the same time period.
Visitors say the duomo is stunning and recommend visiting the cloister. They also suggest allowing a day to see both.
- #6View all Photos#6 in SicilyHistoric Homes/Mansions, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Stroll through the villa of a wealthy Roman family filled with well-preserved mosaics on both the floor and walls. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, which dates back to the fourth century, also contains columns, capitals, statues, coins and the remains of thermal baths.
Recent visitors said the mosaics are stunning and some even described it as the highlight of their trip to Sicily.
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Located in Agrigento in southwest Sicily, this more than 2,000-acre archeological site dates back to fifth century B.C. and includes the remains of numerous Greek temples. A highlight is the Temple of Concordia, which is known as one of the greatest remaining Doric temples (along with the Parthenon in Athens) and which was later converted to a Christian church. Other highlights include the remains of aqueducts, mosaic floors and a tomb.
Past visitors said it's worth visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site and recommended allowing at least half a day, if not a full day to explore the area. Others suggested timing your visit for the cooler months, as the ruins are actually situated on a ridge (not in a valley, as its name suggests) and the temperatures in the summer can get quite hot.
- #8View all Photos#8 in SicilyCastles/Palaces, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDCastles/Palaces, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Completed in 1143, this chapel is part of the Royal Palace complex in Palermo and was once described by the French author Guy de Maupassant as "the finest religious jewel ever dreamed up by the human mind." It is a mix of various styles, including European, Sicilian, Byzantine and Arabic, and features Byzantine mosaics and an Islamic-style wooden stalactite ceiling. You can also tour the Royal Apartments area, though they are closed Tuesday through Thursday, as well as the Royal Gardens. The palace also features rotating exhibits.
Recent travelers said the chapel is a must-visit and describe the mosaics as breathtaking.
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The largest theater in Italy, Teatro Massimo is located in Palermo and opened in 1897. The theater, which is known for its exceptional acoustics (and its appearance in "The Godfather: Part III"), hosts opera, ballet and music performances throughout the year.
According to recent visitors, the building is impressive and the neoclassical architecture magnificent. Reviewers suggested looking at the performance calendar ahead of your visit to see if any shows pique your interest. If not, consider tagging along on a guided tour of the theater.
- #10View all Photos#10 in SicilyBeachesTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeachesTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
When in Sicily, you must visit some of its beautiful beaches, including Mondello, a popular beach in Palermo. Palm trees line this beach with pale sand and emerald waters. Dotting the beach are art nouveau villas and colorful cabins with an old fishing village filled with brightly-colored boats just around the corner.
Past travelers highly recommended a visit to this beach thanks to its clear waters and advise that you can rent chairs and an umbrella for a day in the sun. They also say it's easy to reach from Palermo via bus, although several reviewers warn of inconsistent bus frequency and a crowded ride in the summer. If you're willing to pay for the convenience, travelers suggest you take a taxi from Palermo to the beach. Part of the beach is free to visit (though according to reviewers, it's a very small section). For more space and access to amenities, you'll have to fork over some euros.
- #11View all Photos#11 in SicilyHiking, Parks and GardensTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Parks and GardensTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Outdoor enthusiasts won't want to miss the Zingaro Nature Reserve. Stretching for more than 4 miles along the Gulf of Castellammare on Sicily's northwestern tip, the reserve has been left largely untouched by human hands since it was established in 1981. The reserve offers spectacular ocean views, many lovely bays, small beaches and plentiful hiking among abundant flora and fauna.
Past visitors said the area is great for snorkeling and intermediate hikes, and highly recommend its beautiful beaches. Others suggested wearing comfortable shoes and bringing plenty of water and snacks.
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Built by the Normans beginning 1184, the Palermo Cathedral is a must-see for the many architectural styles incorporated into its façade. Altered throughout the centuries since its inception, the cathedral demonstrates Catalan Gothic architecture and features hints at its past life. The site the cathedral now occupies once housed a mosque (among other religious edifices), and you'll see an inscription from the Quran on one of the cathedral's columns. Inside, you will find a crypt, the crown of Constance of Aragon and the tombs of several royal figures.
Recent visitors described the cathedral as an architectural and cultural masterpiece and recommended going up to the roof for fantastic views of Palermo. If you're visiting in the summer, reviewers suggest you stop by early in the day to avoid the queue. Others advised wearing sensible shoes to easily traverse the narrow steps up to the roof.
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